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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Statewide group to study noise ordinances

Thursday, July 9, 2009

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

County attorneys statewide could have an influence on efforts to revise Henry County's noise control ordinance.

The Local Government Attorneys of Virginia Inc., a group affiliated with the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, formed a committee to "come up with a model ordinance" that localities across the state can use in revising their noise ordinances, said Henry County Attorney George Lyle, a member of the group and the committee.

Lyle said the committee was formed in response to the Virginia Supreme Court's ruling in April that Virginia Beach's noise ordinance was vague and unconstitutional because it did not specify how loud is too loud.

One of the purposes of the attorneys association, its Web site shows, is to provide a forum for county and city attorneys statewide to exchange ideas.

Along that line, the committee is exchanging ideas on how noise ordinances should be worded, Lyle said.

He recently told the Henry County Board of Supervisors that more than 70 localities statewide are revising their noise ordinances as a result of the court's ruling.

Lyle is revising Henry County's ordinance due to the supervisors' desire to better control excessive barking by dogs.

He said revisions to the ordinance probably will specify what noises could be considered nuisances, the times of day they can be considered nuisances and distances from which they can be heard that would make them nuisances.

He added that he does not envision the county using decibel meters to determine what is too loud. Ideas he has seen from other county and city attorneys do not involve using the meters, either.

Henry County officials have said the electronic meters would be too costly to buy and maintain. In fact, Campbell County officials recently revised their noise ordinance to discontinue use of the meters there.

Lyle declined to discuss in detail his ongoing work to revise Henry County's ordinance. But he said he anticipates having a proposed revision to present to supervisors for consideration by their Aug. 25 meeting.


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